The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabazon Camara (translated from the Spanish by Fiona Mackintosh and Iona Mackintyre, Booker International Prize 2020)

This cover reminded me of Pippi Longstocking at first, with those two long braids erratically standing up. As I read, I learned that they belong to China Iron, “china” being the name for someone’s woman, and “iron” coming from Fierro, her deceased husband’s last name. She cut her braids, and put on the clothing of a gaucho, as she travelled with Liz through the pampas of Argentina in 1872.

Elizabeth is a Scotswoman, familiar with English, tea, lavender-scented sheets, and soft leather shoes. China is entranced by her.

But, I am entranced by the descriptions of their beautiful, and often fearsome, surroundings. Here is an example:

Suddenly everything goes still, the wide pastures – that usually ripple and wave – stop their swaying, a heavy silence descends over everything, a black thunder cloud that had seemed far off is right overhead, imminent in an instant, billowing, swollen, whorls of mottled grey. Although its texture might appear soft to the eyes of those of us on the ground below, in the short time it would take us to get the jerky into the wagon, a torrent of rain would pour down on us, and violent lightning would flash, striking trees and sometimes animals. (p. 53)

The Adventures of China Iron is a “subversive retelling of Argentina’s foundational gaucho epic Martin Fierro…a celebration of the color and movement of the living world, the open road, love and sex, and the dream of lasting freedom.” (Charco Press)

Personally, I could do without the feminist, LGBT point of view, but that sort of thing appeals to the culture right now, so it makes sense that this novel would be included in the long list for the Booker International Prize 2020. There are other books with a more interesting perspective which I am hopeful will win.

1 thought on “The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabazon Camara (translated from the Spanish by Fiona Mackintosh and Iona Mackintyre, Booker International Prize 2020)

  1. Yes, she turns that old qauchesque epic on its head and chops off the braids, I thought this was a wonderful, daring, well-referenced read, my favourite of the three on the shortlist I have read.

    Maybe after 22 days in isolation, on a beautiful spring day, with zero expectations, it came along at just the right time for me. I do love books that invite me to research their references and this one not only did that, I had just downloaded W.H.Hudson’s (the Argentine naturalist) autobiography the week before after having it recommended to me when I wrote my Top 5 Nature-Inspired Reads post. So I got that reference straight away.

    In the 21st century, it’s about time someone challenged convention and rewrote some of those old chauvanistic tales. I was thoroughly entertained and would love to see it win!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s